Privacy concerns over body data at #SXSW

With wearable technology being the theme of the year at SXSW, it is no surprise that privacy concerns over the data they generate have been much discussed. Possibly the biggest debate was during the keynote with 23andMe Founder and CEO, Anne Wojcicki.

23andMe have really been the company under the spotlight in this area, after the FDA ruled they were not allowed to present the health data that the company was pretty much founded on. This left 23andMe as more of a family history company, albeit based on genealogy. But still, not the digital health revolutionists they once were.

But let’s look beyond the FDA issue, which Wojcicki says will be sorted in the near-future. The big issue during the interview was who owns the data, what is being done with it, and isn’t it a bit scary that 23andMe’s biggest investor is Google – and Wojcicki herself is married to Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google.

Of course, 23andMe is actually one of the safer places to keep your data. You opt in, rather than opt out. And even then you have quite a few levels of access that you grant to your data. Google get none of this. The data is yours and can be downloaded and removed from 23andMe whenever you want.

But other companies do not play by the same rules. FitBit, for example, owns your data, and to have access to the raw data you need to pay £40 per year, but FitBit still ‘own’ it.

And beyond this, even if your data does belong to you, not the company, how can you be sure it is secure? Hackers of the future will no longer be looking to take your passwords, they’ll be looking to take your DNA, and in this future, that won’t require drawing blood from you, it simply means hacking into the 23andMe servers.

So even though companies have our privacy in mind, it appears we need to do much more.

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